Australia - (Oceanía)

Información sobre Australia

7682300 kilómetros cuadrados
Anglican 21.8%, Roman Catholic 26,8%, other Christian 24.3%, non-Christian 11%
Cristianos (%)
Protestantes (%)
Reformados (%)

Though Australia was visited several times in the 16th and 17th centuries by Portuguese and Dutch navigators, Western colonization began only in 1788 when Britain established a convict colony in what is now Sydney. At that time the aboriginal population — which had existed since at least 60,000 years — is thought to have numbered about 300,000; it drastically decreased in subsequent years. Christian mission contributed to assuring their survival but at the same time alienated them from their traditional heritage. Today the churches seek to strengthen the awareness of their cultural identity; their number has again increased considerably in both traditional communities and urban areas.
Christianity in Australia is multiform and reflects various streams of immigration. The first Ref Christians to arrive were Presb from Scotland and Congreg from England. Congregations were established in various parts of Australia. In the course of the 19th century they gradually organized themselves at the national level. In 1977, after protracted negotiations, Methodists, Presb, and Congreg formed theUniting Church of Australia(cf. no. 1).
The first Scottish Presb settled in 1802 in Hawkesbury River near Portland Head, west from Sydney. A church was built in 1809 in Ebenezer. The first minister on the mainland was John Dunmore Lang, who arrived in 1823 and started the Scots Church in Sydney. Other ministers followed. After a period of disputes, two groups in New South Wales formed in 1840 The Synod of Australia in connection with the Established Church of Scotland.But soon afterward a disruption occurred — reproducing on Australian soil the split in the Church of Scotland and the formation of the Free Church of Scotland (1843). In Scotland the issue was the power the state came to exercise in church affairs, especially the imposition on parishes of ministers approved by the patron (cf. United Kingdom) but not approved by the church members. The majority of the Australian Synod refused to break their moral and legal tie to the Established Church of Scotland. Division came in 1846 with the formation of the Presbyterian Church of Eastern Australia (New South Wales and Queensland) and the Free Presbyterian Church of Victoria, both of which were independent but maintained fellowship with the Free Church of Scotland. In addition, the United Presbyterian Church of Scotland was represented in Australia from 1847 (cf. United Kingdom, Introduction on Scotland). Several other Presbyterian groups established themselves in Australia, representing dissenting groups in their home countries — e.g.,the Welsh Calvinistic Methodist Church (1857, no. 6) and the Reformed Presbyterian Church of Australia (1857, no. 4). As time went on, the need for a common witness in Australia became more manifest. Unions of most Presb were achieved in all the then separate colonies. Each union resulted in the name Presbyterian Church with the name of the colony. Toward the end of the 19th century the general feeling was that the colonies should federate into one country comprising six states. The churches followed this movement. The Presb started to meet together in a Federal Assembly. In 1901, they formed the Presbyterian Church in Australia. In 1977 70% of the Presb joined the Uniting Church (cf. no. 1), but a minority of almost one third decided to continue as the Presbyterian Church of Australia (cf. no. 2).
The Congreg presence is due mainly to work of the LMS. The first congregation was founded in 1809 in Sydney by W. P. Crook. Others followed in several other parts of Australia. They expanded considerably in Melbourne and Sydney and had a remarkable impact on politics and the press. Before 1900 South Australian Congreg represented 3.5% of the population but provided 40% of the members of the Legislative Council and 12.5% of the House of Assembly. Their influence diminished in the 20th century. In the second part of the 19th century Congreg unions were formed in several states. Congr participated in church union negotiations and decided by an overwhelming majority to join the Uniting Church of Australia (1977). Only 40 of the 300 congr opted for a continuing separate existence. There are still several Congreg churches outside the membership of the Uniting Church — some of them have formed the Congregational Federation of Australia (no. 14), others belong to the Fellowship of Congregational Churches in NSW (no. 15), and still others are entirely independent.
In addition to the groups so far mentioned there are quite a number of Presb and Ref Churches which came into existence through immigration, doctrinal disputes, or particular missionary initiatives after World War II — Dutch Reformed (no. 11-12), Irish Presb (no. 13), and, in recent years, more and more Korean Presb groups (no. 18-21).
While the Uniting Church of Australia participates in the ecumenical movement and is an active member of the National Council of Churches in Australia, most Presb and Ref bodies view the ecumenical movement with scepticism, some even with hostility. These hold to conservative interpretations of the Ref tradition.




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